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Report: Sam Zell To Buy Elysian Hotel In Gold Coast

Sam Zell

Sam Zell, former Tribune Company chairman and real estate investor. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Real estate mogul Sam Zell is reportedly paying $95 million to buy the Elysian Hotel in the Gold Coast.

Crain’s Chicago Business reports the billionaire financier and former Tribune Company chairman has agreed to buy the 188-room boutique hotel at 11 E. Walton St., and convert it into a Waldorf Astoria.

The hotel, which opened only two years ago, is one of the most expensive in the city with suites starting at $525 per night, Crain’s reported. Zell’s purchase would be the highest per-room price ever paid for any hotel, at about $505,000 per room, according to Crain’s.

Zell is known for his real estate investments, but generally has not been big on hotels, Crain’s reported. But the Elysian is losing money, and Zell expects to boost its value by turning it into a Waldorf and bringing in Waldorf parent company Hilton Worldwide Inc. to operated it, according to Crain’s.

Zell’s greatest local claim to fame is his 2007 leveraged buyout of the struggling Tribune Company. In December 2008, the Tribune Company ended up in bankruptcy with $13 billion in debt, most of which was taken on when Zell’s $8.2 billion buyout was finalized.

Separately, Zell brought in chief executive officer Randy Michaels, who was alleged in multiple reports to have turned the Tribune Co. into a raunchy fraternity house environment. Most recently, former Tribune managing editor James O’Shea penned the book The Deal from Hell: How Moguls and Wall Street Plundered Great American Newspapers, which includes a graphic anecdote about Michaels involving sex acts on a Tribune Tower terrace.

Michaels later resigned from the Tribune Company and later led the group Merlin Media in buying two local FM radio stations.

The Tribune Company remains in bankruptcy, after a judge rejected its latest plan to reorganize two weeks ago.